PBS saga: Bundy defends car lease situation, says board decisions ‘not in interest of company’

Kevin Schembri Orland Tuesday, 15 January 2019, 16:08 Last update: about 12 hours ago

Former PBS CEO John Bundy took the stand before the Industrial Tribunal on Tuesday, and highlighted a number of situations brought about by the board which, he says, were not in the interest of the company, including one scenario where the Board Chairman allegedly told six countries who were participating in the Junior Eurovision in Malta that PBS would pay their expenses.

Bundy filed the unfair dismissal claim against PBS after he was sacked by the board of directors. He had been directly installed at the helm of the national broadcaster in August 2016. Bundy was fired from his post as CEO in November 2017 after a unanimous vote was taken by the board. A statement issued by PBS said that Bundy was fired because he had ‘breached procurement regulations’ when he awarded a €500,000 car leasing contract.

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In Tuesday’s sitting, Bundy spoke about the car leasing situation, and insisted that the board knew everything he was doing, highlighting that the board had signed off on him selling the old cars. “I don’t think any Chairman would give the ok to sell and scrap old cars without asking about new cars for the company,” he said.

He said that when he was first appointed, he began meeting with the various departments to see what main issues there were in the company, and what could be improved. The issue of the vehicles being old and causing trouble was one such issue brought up, he said.

He said that he then called a meeting with the financial controller, the procurement manager and the sales manager to see how to solve this issue. He said that a document was drawn up showing the cost of the vehicle fleet over the previous year, which amounted to over €24,000 in maintenance work, licences etc. They explored the possibility of either purchasing or leasing new cars, however said that he was told buying new cars was not an option due to the bad financial position of the company. He said that this was the first time he had heard that the company was in a bad financial position.

He said that in a further meeting with managers, one of them said that he was not sure if going for a tendering process was the best idea, given the length of time it would take, and that they decided to gather quotes from vehicle leasing companies instead. He said that he insisted that they get quotes from all vehicle leasing companies in Malta.

He said that around 13-14 quotations were gathered, and a spreadsheet was drawn up, showing that the Burmarrad Commercials offer was the most advantageous. “I didn’t even know they leased vehicles at the time and thought they were just in construction,” he said.

Further on during his testimony, he highlighted that the company was in the red, according to information he had seen.

He said he had held three meetings with Burmarrad Commercials, in which a number of PBS managers were also present. He said the managers played an active role during the meetings.

He said that they also wanted to sell and scrap the old vehicles, highlighting that the board had approved this.

He said that the Procurement manager told him that the process they took was better than tendering.

He stressed that he always worked to better the company.

On the company’s financial situation, he brought up some issues which raised a number of questions. He argued that a heated discussion with the board had developed over programme scheduling, saying that he wanted the current affairs discussions programmes to come after prime time, so that the more lucrative programmes could take the prime time slots. The Board however, rejected this idea he said, adding that PBS Head of News Reno Bugeja, who had his own current affairs programme, had agreed with him on this issue.

He also brought up a number of other issues in relation to the PBS finances. He said that during the Junior Eurovision which Malta had hosted, six nations who were meant to take part were asking PBS to pay for all their expenses, including accommodation, vehicles and food. He said that the Chairman, Tonio Portughese, had promised these six countries that if they participated, their expenses would be paid for without him knowing. He said two countries eventually backed out and didn’t participate after him constantly trying to get out of the situation, however PBS ended up having to pay an amount for the other four.

He also highlighted that the Board tried to organise a board meeting with an overnight stay in Gozo, rather than in the PBS boardroom, in a very expensive hotel. He said that he managed to stop this from happening, but said it happened twice in the past, once where the board bartered with a company to pay for their accommodation in exchange for advertising, and once where the board paid. In both these meetings, he said, the board members also took their partners.

He also highlighted smaller general payment situations occurring within the company, such as €1,000 being spent over the span of ten days for lunches.

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